Like Ripples in a Pond: Masterminding Your Success

by Annie

in motivate schmotivate, strategery

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Concentric ripples in a pond with red autumn leaves

Earlier this week, I wrote about the subject of small group promotions and mastermind process in a different context over at my other biz blog, Stage Presence.

But over here, today, I want to talk about mastermind groups as a productivity tool, and as the single biggest lesson I learned in 2011.

The bottom line: a small (3 to 5 member) group of fellow couch warriors can and should be your secret weapon in your marketing arsenal, because of the way a strong group like that amplifies the creativity and productivity of each of its members.

Like ripples in a pond, the effects of the small mastermind group go way beyond its immediate impact.

The Blog Posse and Me

As I wrote over at the Stage Presence blog:

[F]or the last several months, I’ve been blessed to be part of a small group of five other women business owners and bloggers, which we rather tongue-in-cheek-ily named “The Blog Posse.” We do twice-monthly phone calls where we reveal our successes and challenges, focus on two members in the “hot seat” where we focus in more depth on specific challenges, and close by stating individual goals we want to achieve before the next call.

So, each call begins with a five- or ten-minute section where we each take turns recounting our successes and challenges since the last call, getting some instant feedback and validation in the process.

Then we move on to the hot-seat portion, where two pre-selected members get 15-20 minutes each to present a specific challenge and get the group’s targeted feedback.

Two hot-seaters are chosen at the end of each call and, before the next call, they fill out a mastermind form outlining the issue, what’s been done to pursue the goal, what the group can do to help … then circulate their forms to the others. This way, when the hot-seaters go front-and-center, we’re all up to speed.

Finally, we end up each call by announcing to the group what we want to be held accountable for, in the two week interim before the next call. Everybody announces a goal, and we hold each other to it, periodically checking in on each other, sharing progress … it’s like a built-in team of coaches for free!

Check it out: I’ve gotten group permission to share the form we use! The attached Blog Master Mind Prep Worksheet, in .DOCX format, can be saved to your hard drive by right-clicking the link and saving the document. This particular form is the one that was originally shared with us by Clare Price of Five Easy Pages.  If you prefer, you can use this version in PDF.

Accountability + Creativity: How Mastermind Groups Fuel Productivity

Before this magical land of group-sourced awesomeness was revealed to me, I was a firm believer in the power of one: the ability of a dedicated-unto-obsession individual to change the world. Or at least start and run a profitable business on the web.

All well and good, of course. But then, as obsessions are wont to do, this one kinda turned. It fermented, if you will, into a slightly off version of itself. Instead of championing the power of one, it turned into a screed of “I can do it myself so I MUST DO IT ALONE!”

Which is, of course, pure and unadulterated foolishness.

‘Cause look: we all have things we rock at and things we suck at. We all have things we love to do and things we hate to do, too. And those four quadrants don’t always align perfectly. We may rock at things we hate. (Exhibit A: My late unlamented law career.) We may suck at things we really enjoy. (Exhibit B: my … um … “paintings.”) And where suckage meets necessity, there’s an area that’s primed for one of two things: growth, or outsourcing.

The mastermind group (which term I’m starting to hate because it doesn’t come near close enough to evoking its pure genius and utility) helps you through those spaces. It even helps you recognize when you’re about to set foot in one of those spaces, before you ever get there. 

That’s because the group-mind has a few kick-ass qualities that make it worth much, much more than the sum of its glorious parts: collective wisdom + perspective + affection.

You get the benefit of the collected wisdom stemming from the experiences, direct and observed, of each of the group’s members.

You also get the benefit of their heightened objectivity towards problems that threaten to overwhelm you like a rising tide. Their vantage points are at a distance and height that gives them greater perspective.

And, best of all, because a good group becomes a little like a family, you get all this goodness filtered through a healthy dose of affection. Do you know how it feels to have a handful of really smart, creative people whose opinions you respect cheering you on and rooting for you to succeed? Can you imagine how that might fuel your day and get you over the rough spots?

And all of this goodness — the collective wisdom/experience + the perspective + the affection — gives you two of the mightiest weapons in your battle to get your shit done: accountability and creativity.

You’re accountable not just to yourself or your bottom line anymore. Your group members WILL remember what you promised to get done. They WILL (or should) ride you hard if you don’t do it.

You’re also given the benefit of a multitude of creative minds focused on your problem or challenge. One brain alone gets wiped out, taxed too much, overwhelmed. Five such minds working together? Get that shit done fast, and then order takeout Thai to celebrate as they move on to the next “insurmountable” challenge.

Y’know, I could go for days on this riff.

And I will be writing more about it, for sure (both here and at Stage Presence). But for now, let me just say this: ain’t no one-woman shows on the business web. They might look like a solo act, but if it’s long-term and for-reals success you’re after, you’re gonna need help.

And that was the single biggest lesson I learned in 2011.

What did you learn last year? Have you tried mastermind groups before? What did you think? Are you curious about starting one yourself? Share your story below!

Photo credit: John Evans

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily Suess February 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I’ve read about mastermind groups in a couple of different places now, and I have to say that they intrigue me. There’s something appealing about working in a creative group that works for accountability. Great Carnival post, Annie. Thanks for sharing and for giving me something to ponder!
Emily Suess recently posted..5 Tax Tips for Freelance Writers


Annie February 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thanks Emily! I can’t recommend them enough. I’m going to be writing more about them here in the future, so stay tuned – I hope to process what I’ve learned from our experience and boil it down into some specific “how-to” advice on creating a group and getting the most out of it.


Tea Silvestre February 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm

What you said. Yep – it’s all totally and completely TRUE. People, LISTEN. Get yerself a Posse, NOW. Don’t walk. Don’t Pass Go. If you aren’t in a Mastermind, you’re MISSING OUT. (Was that too much?)

Thanks, Annie – I’m SO glad you’re in my Posse. 😉
Tea Silvestre recently posted..And…We’re Off! The Wonderlicious BHAG World Tour


Annie February 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I’d say “just enough,” Tea! I don’t think you CAN oversell small self-assembled mastermind groups. (Though we totally need a new word for it. Mastermind sounds kind of “late 90’s” and “IM”-my and yucky.) Happy to hang with you, lady!


Clare Price February 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Annie, I have never heard a master mind group described so well and suscintly! “That’s because the group-mind has a few kick-ass qualities that make it worth much, much more than the sum of its glorious parts: collective wisdom + perspective + affection.” Many talk about the perspective, some the wisdom, but affection! So true and so overlooked. Thank you.
Clare Price recently posted..The Power in Learning to Receive


Annie February 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Gracias, Clare! (And thanks for the OK to upload and share the hot-seat form!) Yeah, to me that’s a key aspect: life’s too damned short to be hanging with people who don’t love you, and/or whom you don’t love.


Sharon Hurley Hall February 29, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Great post, Annie. I’m enjoying being part of the this creative group of butt-kickers. As Tea says, we can all use a posse.


Annie February 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Absolutely, Sharon! Thanks for commenting. 🙂


Michelle Church February 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Ms. Annie…Once again I am loving yet another post and especially cause you spoke about the Posse in such a FAB way. It is such an awesome thing to have the support and the energy of the group hugs as we work through, discover who, learn how to continuously get better and better and let go of what may not be working. I am honored to be an associate of yours and love your “kick ass” advice!
Michelle Church recently posted..The Truth about Being Alone


Annie February 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I am humbled and awed, Michelle – at your kind words, at being allowed to be part of such a freakin’ awesome group of kick-ass women, and at the innate “do”-ing power of our little Posse. Rock on, sister!


Nicole Fende March 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

Annie you did a great job of describing our Posse (yeah I hate mastermind too). The objectivity married to insights and support have been amazing! I owe my true claiming of The Numbers Whisperer to you ladies:) Thrilled to hear it has been as helpful to everyone else.

So let’s officially bury the term mastermind, and claim posse or brainstorm a new, cool name in our next call.
Nicole Fende recently posted..Unusual Assets – Taking Stock of the Past Year


Someone March 2, 2012 at 7:14 am

I have a writing posse, and it’s great. We share ideas, we talk about what went wrong and what we can do to fix it, we talk about what went right and how we can continue it… It’s a great idea that I reccomend to everyone.


Nick Armstrong March 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm


My single-greatest failing is my inability to let go of the reigns. “I can do it myself so I MUST DO IT ALONE!” is absolutely right, and I do it every time. I’m not sure how to get out of that habit, and at the same time – I’m not sure what pieces I can let go of.

I started instituting a no-bad-clients rule to get rid of folks I have even slight objections to working with and I’m getting further and further away from the world of Web Design so I can get back to the real core of what I enjoy: creative marketing.

In any case, I used to have something I used to call “accountabillibuddies” and we’d meet for coffee and to talk projects, but at the end of each week, we’d not moved much in our goals. I think the organizational sheet will help. At some point, I may opt to rejoin the Blog Posse (if I can get my head on straight again, haha).

Thanks for the great advice, as always!
Nick Armstrong recently posted..Did you just call your Customer a Douchebag?


Katrina March 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I totally agree! There is such power in letting other strong, capable, insightful people help you and ignite your creative ideas with staying power. Doing it alone works for a while, but it also keeps you from allowing you and your ideas to be potentially vulnerable, and it’s this fear that can sometimes keep great things locked up in limbo. Cheers to collaboration and empowering each other to shine our brightest light!


Annie March 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Well said, Katrina! Thanks for stopping by!


Someone April 3, 2012 at 8:34 am

*sigh* What happened? It’s been over a month since this post. Anything new coming?


Someone April 22, 2012 at 8:00 am

Still nothing. I hope everything is alright.


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